Author: Joe Haldeman
Rating: 2 Stars
Review By: Shana
Haldeman starts with an intriguing premise and, for a large portion of the book, delivers on it. The idea is that there are two extraterrestrials on the planet, though we spend a lot more time with one called "The Changeling" than we do with the other, called "The Chameleon." As a third line of plot, meant to take place in the near future just as the two alien storylines are followed in flashback to the past, we have humans discovering an artifact buried in the ocean. The artifact quickly reveals itself to be a technological feat outside of current human understanding.
From this premise, we get brief vignettes from each alien as they move through time, as well as a near future storyline as scientists try to divine the nature of the artifact. The Changeling spends millennia in the sea as various sea creatures before discovering humans and taking human form. The Chameleon appears to have always been some form of human, but capable of changing appearance in an instant. The book is most interesting when it follows the Changeling and lets us see humanity through its eyes. The book remains engaging when it shows the Chameleon, clearly an apex predator with what humans would identify as psychopathy, maneuvering through human wars and atrocities, drawn to them for their violence. The book is least interesting in the near future storyline, but still passable.
However, the book jumps the shark (a pun I most definitely intend, given that the Changeling used that form for thousands of years) toward the end and takes a promising SF tale of first contact and human nature seen from another perspective and turns it into a lackluster love story. The love story feels alien (pun also intended) and Haldeman makes this worse by not giving the reader any reason to believe in it - it is rushed and pat and unconvincing. The eventual climactic scene feels sudden and the final resolution cliched. In the end, I found the book disappointing, its promise consumed by a tacked on and out of place ending.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...